How to Keep Trout Alive While Fishing?

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle Whitley

how to keep trout alive while fishing

When you are fishing for trout that you plan on cooking later for a tasty meal, you need to know how to keep trout alive while fishing, and how to keep the trout fresh after the catch until you get ready to cook the fish.

The fresher the fish is after you catch it the fresher it will taste when you cook the fish.  

Keeping the trout fresh while out on the water requires special equipment, depending on where and how you are fishing.  We will get into the specifics a little later, but items like a live well, stringer, or fish basket will allow you to keep the trout cool and alive while you continue to fish.

Where to keep trout after catching it?

The best way to keep the fish fresh after you plan on eating the fish is to dispatch the fish as soon as possible and keep the fish cool prior to cooking it.

However, while you are fishing you are going to want to put the fish somewhere to try and keep the fish alive and cool as long as possible.

This could mean storing the fish in a cooler, fish bag, on a stringer, or in a fish basket.  Each type of storage device depends on where you are fishing.  

If you are on a boat you will use a live well.  If you are on the bank you might choose a stringer,  if you are fly fishing in the middle of a stream you might use a fish basket. If you don’t have any of those specialty fishing items, you can always use a cooler and ice to keep your fish cool until you can process them

Storage Equipment to Keep Fish Fresh


To ensure that you get the best-tasting fish possible from your fishing trip, they should be cleaned as soon as possible after the catch. Depending on how long your fishing trip lasts, some pieces of equipment may be helpful in making this process easier and keeping the fish cooler.

Live wells

If you are on a boat or have a portable live well available that is a good way to keep the trout fresh while still fishing.  The live well is a tank or bucket of water that is oxygenated by a pump to help keep fish alive and fresh while on the boat or streamside.


If you are fishing on the bank on in the river another couple of options to keep fish fresh is a stringer or a wading basket. 

A stringer at its simplest is just a string with a metal point on the end that you run through the gills of the fish that loops back through a loop.  As you catch more fish you add them to the stringer.  The stringer is usually placed in the water to keep the fish alive while you continue to fish.

There are other types of stringers that have a metal line with individual clips every couple of inches.  You attach the fish with a clip,  The clip is placed through the gills of the trout and keeps it attached to the stringer while you continue to fish.

Wading Baskets

Wading baskets are generally used by fly fishermen to store their catch while they continue to fish.  

A wading basket is a basket that you can drag along with you as you fish for trout in the streams and rivers.  It is basically a basket made from a netting that has a hole at the top where you stuff fish into as you catch them.  

The hole only allows for fish to enter but not swim their way out of the basket as it remains in the water.


Though it may same like a no brainer, using a cooler to keep fish fresh is another great idea to keep fish fresh until they can be cleaned and cooked.

Any kind of hard plastic or soft-sided cooler will work in keeping your fish fresh.  The cooler should contain some cool water, ice, or both.

Will putting trout on ice kill them?

Ice will not kill the fish initially but the fish will go into a sort of shock due to the cold.  Eventually, the fish will die after a period of time of not being in oxygenated water. 

Cleaning the fish than putting it on ice is the best way to maintain a fresh trout that you can either freeze or cook later.

How long can you store trout in the fridge?

Gutted fish can last up to 2-3 days in the fridge, but ungutted fish can last for 1-2 days in the fridge. Fish protein is highly perishable and should be stored in the fridge.

Even though you can safely eat gutted fish after 2-3 days in the fridge, its flavor and texture start to degrade well before reaching this deadline, which means its flavor and texture start degrading fast.

So, I personally don’t recommend storing fresh fish for more than 24 to 36 hours in a fridge.

Freezing the Trout

If you can not cook the fish within the suggested 2-3 days then it is best to freeze the fish.  Fresh frozen fish can last up to 3 months in the freezer.

One important thing to remember when freezing fish is to freeze the fish in an appropriate food safe material.  Vacuum sealed bags are the most preferred due to being able to remove all the air from the bag which will limit issues with freezer burn.

Cling wrap is made of polyvinylidene chloride. It seals in moisture and holds out oxygen. It is great for freezing fish because it eliminates air pockets. It is also great for sealing packages of meat or vegetables.

Zipper-lock freezer bags are great barriers against air and moisture. Place your fish in the bag, seal it up, and then submerge it in a water-filled bowl. Zip the bag shut, and seal it underwater. If you’re using this method, be sure to use the right size bag for the amount of fish you want to freeze.

Smaller fish need smaller bags, while larger fish require bigger ones. Also, make sure that the bag is sealed properly before you put it into the freezer. Air pockets inside the bag could ruin your fish.

Vacuum sealing is the most effective but costs much more than cling wrap and aluminum foil.

Summing it Up: how to keep trout alive while fishing

In conclusion, I hope this article will help you learn how to keep trout fresh while you fish. As you may know, trout are very perishable.  By using live wells, stringers, coolers, and wading baskets you can keep your catch fresh until you complete your fishing trip.